A copyright case going before the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 12 encompasses the avant-garde pop art of Andy Warhol, the musical genius and personal vulnerability of the performer Prince and the rarefied worlds of rock photography and glossy magazines.

At stake is nothing less than the future of all “artistic expression,” says one side, while the other says the legal test proposed by its adversary “would transform copyright law into all copying, no right,” and turn the fair use defense under copyright into “a license to steal.”

“I think this is a potentially significant case for the whole creative realm, not just visual art,” says Roman Martinez, a Latham & Watkins partner who represents the New York City-based foundation charged with preserving the legacy of Warhol, who died in 1987.

Capturing ‘a vulnerable human being’

The case is The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. v. Goldsmith. The story begins with the respondent, Lynn Goldsmith, an accomplished rock photographer who had snapped iconic portraits of musical artists including Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen and Mick Jagger.

In 1981, she approached Newsweek magazine with the idea of photographing Prince, who was just emerging as a rock icon. Goldsmith shot him in concert but also in her studio, where she gave him purple eyeshadow and lip gloss to accentuate his sensuality and set the lighting to highlight his chiseled bone structure. Her intention was to capture a “vulnerable human being,” she has said"

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